The history of Our Lady of Tender Mercy, or Virgin of Vladimir (Russian: Владимирская Икона Божией Матери) is intertwined with that of the Hodegetria; as some say it developed from the Smolensk Icon into the Panagia Eleousa (Virgin of Tender Mercy). Others say that Saint Luke painted three icons of the Theotokos, one being the Hodegetria and another being the Panagia Eleousa. Whatever the origin, many miracles are attributed to this icon, and Mary’s graces constantly pour onto those who pray her by this image.
The Vladimirskaya, as Russians call it, is generally accepted as the finest of the few Byzantine icons left from its period, and according to art historian David Talbot Rice "is admitted by all who have seen it to be one of the most outstanding religious paintings of the world". A characteristic feature of this iconography is that the left foot of the Child is bent in such a way that His heel is visible. Unlike other representations of the Theotokos, Christ is on the left, and He is seen gently nuzzling His mother’s cheek, which she slightly inclines towards him. Mary’s attitude is one of tenderness and love towards humanity. She is inviting us to confide in her all of our lives, the good and the bad. But most of all, her eyes move us to love her and to be loved by her, to be pacified by her, to ask and to receive her graces.